Alabama
About AlabamaHotels and ResortsAttractionsArt and EntertainmentDiningShoppingReal EstateVisitor InformationCalendar of EventsVisit Alabama Online Home Page

 

Featured Websites

florida Outdoors

Alabama travel and tourist information Alabama
Alabama Travel Articles

LARGEST CONCENTRATION OF VICTORIAN ERA HOMES TO BE DISCOVERED IN DECATUR’S HISTORIC DISTRICTS

DECATUR, Ala.--A stroll through the Old Decatur and New Albany historic districts in this northern Alabama community is a step back in time, a glimpse into a spring-like rebirth of a town populated by stout citizens emerging from the long winter of the Civil War. Like flowers blooming on a sunny morning, each with their own unique shape and color, the city that was reduced to ashes by evacuating Union troops in 1864 began to rise from the earth in a multitude of architectural styles nurtured by an influx of Northern immigrants. This merger of Southern lifestyles and Northern influences is still evident today as one drives through downtown Decatur on streets alternately named for Union and Confederate generals -- Lee St., Grant St., Jackson St., Sherman St. and so on.

This unique melting pot in the Heart of Dixie is more evident with a visit to the Old Decatur and New Albany historic districts, each listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

Combined, the two historic areas represent the largest concentration of Victorian era craftsmen and bungalow homes in Alabama. The homes date back, in some instances, to the early 1800s, while most were constructed around the turn of the 20th century.

The cornerstone of the Old Decatur Historic District is the Old State Bank, built in 1833 as one of three branches of the newly formed state bank system. As one of only four structures in Decatur to survive the War Between the States, its imposing Greek Revival architecture still bares the scars of miniball bullets fired by skirmishing troops. Decatur’s new Civil War Walking Tour begins just outside the Old State Bank. The tour covers a 13 block area highlighted by 11 large historic markers which tell the story of the city and its’ involvement in the Civil War.

The Old Decatur district embraces over 116-acres and showcases a variety of styles ranging from the French-influenced Empire period to the Edwardian Cottage. The oldest building in the district is the 1829 Dancy-Polk House, another survivor of the Civil War. Being adjacent to the vital railroad lines of the Memphis & Charleston Railroad Company it was once known as the Polk Hotel and was frequented by railroad travelers.

The New Albany Historic District was founded by northern businessmen in the late 1800s and was named after the New York state capital. The tree-lined area reflects early 20th century trends such as Colonial Revival, California Cottage, Dutch Colonial and Frank Lloyd Wright influences.

The Jervis-McWhorter House, built in 1893 by Welsh immigrants, is perhaps the most intact late Victorian structure in the neighborhood. The Christ’s Mission facility was built in 1898 and was acquired by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in 1901. Needing to increase the size of the sanctuary, the entire building was physically lifted and turned in 1951 to allow room for the expansion.

Homes in the historic districts are not normally open for public viewing except when a select number of homes open their doors during the annual Spring Tour of Homes and the Christmas Tour of Homes. A walking/driving tour map of the historic districts is available from the Decatur Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For maps or information on other special events, attractions and meeting facilities in Decatur, contact The Decatur/Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, P. O. Box 2349, Decatur, AL 35602, telephone (800) 524-6181 or (256) 350-2028; or visit them on the World Wide Web at www.decaturcvb.org.

FACT SHEET

OLD DECATUR & NEW ALBANY HISTORIC DISTRICTS

LOCATION: The City of Decatur is located in north-central Alabama midway between Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., on Interstate 65. The Old Decatur and New Albany Historic Districts are located near downtown Decatur, just off the southern bank of the Tennessee River.

From Interstate 65 Exit 334 (Decatur - south) go west on Point Mallard Parkway (Ala. Hwy. 67) approximately 4.5 miles to U.S. Hwy. 31 junction. Go north approximately 4 miles to Church Street. West (left) on Church Street to enter the first historic district.

From Interstate 65 Exit 340 (Decatur - north) go west on Ala. Highway 20/U.S. Alt. Hwy. 72 approximately 1 mile to junction of U.S. Hwy. 31. Continue south on Hwy. 31 approximately 1 mile to Church Street. West (right) on Church Street to enter the first historic district.

VIEWING: Please note that none of the homes in the historic districts are open to the public. During special events such as the annual Spring Tour of Homes and the annual Christmas Tour of Homes selected homes are open to the public. The Old State Bank museum, included in the Old Decatur Historic District, is open weekdays to the public at no admission and may be open on weekends by prior arrangement. A walking/driving tour map of the historic districts is available from the Decatur Convention & Visitors Bureau. The map also provides detailed information about each home. DESCRIPTION: The name for the small settlement which grew up here at the point where the early stage route from Tuscumbia, Ala., crossed the river by ferry, to go on to Huntsville, Ala., was Rhodes Ferry Landing. The ferry, dating from around 1818, was run by Dr. Henry W. Rhodes.

Records of the first Cotaco court (at the time Morgan County was called Cotaco County after a local Indian Chief, Cotaco) indicate that there was an earlier ferry here operated by a McDaniel. But it was Rhodes, and the other families associated with him who first developed the ferry landing into a town. Records indicate a majority of the early settlers in the area that would later become Decatur were from the Sykes family from Greenville County, Va. Ten members took part in the first migration to Morgan and Lawrence Counties. They were connected to Dr. Rhodes by marriage as he married a Miss Dancy, sister of the wife of Colonel James T. Sykes. He owned the land where the town was laid off and the site of the ferry which crossed the Tennessee River.

In 1823, by order of the U.S. Congress and President James Monroe, the town was named in honor of the renowned U.S. naval officer Commodore Stephen Decatur (1779-1820).

Decatur, who won a sword from Congress and a captaincy when he was only 25, was one of the most daring officers in the United States Navy during its early years. The Commodore successfully carried our young nation’s flag into battle against the British during the War of 1812 and against the Barbary Pirates along the North African coast later that decade.

He is best remembered for his ringing toast “Our country; In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be right; but our country, right or wrong.”

The next bookmark in the pages of Decatur’s history came with the opening of the Old State Bank in 1833 as one of three branches of the newly formed state banking system devised by Andrew Jackson. Decatur served as the Tennessee Valley branch for the system, with other branches located in Montgomery and Mobile. Martin Van Buren was present for the opening of the Decatur facility.

When the tides of the Civil War swept over the South, Decatur became a contested point for both sides because of its vital railroad bridge over the Tennessee River. The Memphis & Charleston Railroad company had built the structure in 1856. By war’s end only four buildings were left standing in the city.

The Old Decatur Historic District dates from the town’s early settlement when land taken by the federal government from the Cherokee Indians was sold at auction. Market and Bank Streets were primarily business streets while the oak-lined residential area developed from homes prior to the War Between the States. The surviving structures from the Civil War still left in Decatur are located in this historic district.

A town called New Decatur and later Albany was started in 1887 and was home to wealthy “Yankee” industrialists who brought industry and prosperity back to Decatur. They built large, modern homes and symbolized the town’s new heritage by naming streets alternately for Union and Confederate generals.

New Decatur’s business street was Second Avenue, and it was planned around a spacious park, now called Delano park after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The town changed its name to Albany after many residents’ hometown of Albany, N.Y. In 1927 the two towns, Decatur and Albany, were merged by an act of the state legislature.

NOTEWORTHY: The Old Decatur & New Albany Historic Districts of Decatur make up the largest concentration of Victorian era craftsmen and bungalow homes in Alabama. These homes date back, in some instances, to the early 1800s, while others were constructed around the turn of the 20th century. Both districts are listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

The Old Decatur Historic District embraces over 116-acres with houses ranging in age from 1829 to the present. Styles vary from the French-influenced Empire period to the Edwardian Cottage and beyond.

The New Albany Historic District was founded by northern businessmen in the late 1800s and was named after the New York state capital where a majority of the businessmen had come from. It reflects early 20th century trends such as Colonial Revival, California Cottage, Dutch Colonial and Frank Lloyd Wright influences.

Decatur’s new Civil War Walking Tour covers 13 blocks of the historic district and is highlighted by 11 large historic markers tell the story of the city and its’ involvement in the Civil War.

CONTACT ORGANIZATION:
DecaturMorgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau
719 6th Ave. SE
P. O. Box 2349
Decatur, AL 35602
(800) 524-6181 • (256) 350-2028
www.decaturcvb.org

DecaturMorgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau



ci-Interactive formerly Cyber Island
all contents copyright © ci-Interactive formerly Cyber Island
design and programming by ci-Interactive